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How does the delivery of education need to evolve in a mobile-first world?

digital era of education digital era of education
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James Theophane

As the digital era of education takes hold through the proliferation of mobile enabled devices, how will learning resources have to change to accommodate?

A once personal phenomenon, mobile devices have crept into our professional endeavors and changed our digital behaviors.

A device that used to be solely for phone calls has now become the multi-tasking centerpiece around which we function.

This rapidfire communication to which we are accustomed spawns an interconnectedness that is awesome in scope, yet a challenge to structure, while adding a new dimension to individual opportunity.

Perhaps the most important opportunities these devices unlock is the digital era of education.

When I think of the sea of changes across the education industry, the first thing that comes to mind is the positive effect mobile devices have had.

As teachers, mobile devices make digital learning possible and flexible for different classroom situations.

For example, 1:1 enabled classrooms, in which every student has a mobile educational device to use for assigned activities, allow for blended learning at a scale where personalized teacher attention is more readily available.

For parents, different mobile applications like Edmodo provide a way to stay involved in their child’s learning and better understand where they’re struggling so they can offer support at home.

Similarly, district administrators are able to glean more insights into what’s going on in the classroom so they can better tailor professional development opportunities for educators.

But the largest and most influenced constituency is by far students. Digital skills are essential to acquire given the demands of the 21st century workforce.

While studies may be in their infancy when it comes to valuing the efficacy of mobile devices for learning initiatives, the digital era of education has meant that schools around the country and the world are witnessing higher test scores and increased student engagement, which leads us to believe the learning outcomes are more impactful.

In my mind, content discovery and curation represent a part of the digital era of education in need of disruption.

As time goes on and we are able to measure outcomes of educational tools more effectively, we will have an even more precise sense as to what’s working and what can be improved.

Education industry players, such as education technology providers, districts, policymakers, and teachers, are no longer trying to show proof of concept for mobile devices.

It is broadly recognized that technology should be used in K-12 education. The real area of focus is now the behavior the technology requires or engenders.

According to Gartner, mobile phones are the only device category forecast to show significant growth, reaching over 2 billion units in 2017.

As smartphones proliferate, access to information is no longer the divide that separates the haves from the have-nots.

The ability to remember facts, for instance, becomes less important once ubiquitous search becomes common.

Just as calculators made it possible to not be good at mental arithmetic and still be able to calculate, wireless connectivity in the palm of your hand to all the information in the world changes the dimensions that matter.

In the digital era of education, students are empowered to find and access teachers and peers, share and analyze information, and filter through noise and a firehose of signals – all skill sets that are increasingly paramount to future success.

But with this empowerment comes the need to shift certain aspects of the system that have remained static for decades, such as cognitive efforts and training.

We’re at a point in the industry lifecycle where we need to put more thought around how behaviors shift in a mobile-first learning environment, and the timely ascendance of important functions, such as content creation and consumption.

While we experience changes in the way we consume news, for example, content is still a genre that requires improvement on the educational front.

The industry must ask of key players shaping its future: How will educators and students be interacting with content on a smartphone vs a desktop, or an iPad vs a laptop?

What do these implications have on publishers who must adapt content for a mobile-only environment? How do we encourage content creation and meaningful consumption behaviors?

In my mind, content discovery and curation represent a part of the digital era of education in need of disruption.

The trend toward app usage as part of curriculum, for instance, has taken hold, however, there are still so many what-ifs around making content more modular and the proof points behind exercising creative curricula from a myriad of channels, like app stores or teacher-curated websites.

As we approach a mobile-first educational environment, the trajectory of change will be exponential in both the ability to discover and create.

The interconnectedness devices provide together with the global scalability is changing the world; and this trend is poised to continue.

Mobile is the source of opportunity, and will allow us to explore what has not yet been tapped for the good of the future and the world.

And education plays a critical role.

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